The Fear of the Known

The journey had begun. And now the fear back again, the fear of the unknown, … . Deep down the fear of a man who lives in a world not made for him, whose own world is slipping away, dying, being destroyed, beyond any recall.

Cry, the Beloved Country p. 44

The fear of the letter was the fear of the unknown. This fear, the deep down fear is of the known. Kumalo knows he does not belong in the world where he lives. And he knows the world where he lives is becoming less and less accepting. And yet he is called to make it a place where God is known. This he knows. 

And yet the text says there is the fear of the unknown. That is the letter-fear, the Johannesburg fear, the surface out-of-place fear. The deep down fear, though, is the fear of helplessness in the face of the known: the world dies daily, corrupts moment-by-moment, seeks to evict the godly—who, at least, appear to be slipping away. It is the fear of being unable to change what one knows needs changing. 

We are a mist, a vapor: “Every man at his best is a mere breath” (Ps. 139:5a). David continues:

Surely every man walks about as a phantom
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
And now O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you. Ps. 39:6–7

When one’s hope is in God alone, the world—the pull of the world, indeed—is slipping away. In a good way. 

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